College Football Playoff to expand to 12-team format

The College Football Playoff’s governing board voted unanimously Friday to expand the CFP to 12 teams in 2026, but encouraged the sport’s commissioners to implement it as soon as possible in 2024.

The board’s 11 presidents and principals approved the initial 12-team model, which includes six top-ranked conference champions and six regular teams, the board announced Friday.

“This is a historic and exciting day for college football,” Mississippi Governor and CFP Governing Council Chairman Mark Keenum said in a statement. “More teams, more participation and more A lot of excitement is good for our fans, alumni and student-athletes. I thank my colleagues on the board for their thoughtful approach to this issue and their determination to expand on the target line and the management committee that made this decision possible extensive work.”

Team rankings will continue to be determined by the CFP Selection Committee and remain largely unchanged.

The four highest-ranked conference champions will be rotated from one to four seeds, each of whom will receive a first-round bye. Teams seeded No. 5 to No. 12 will play each other in the first round on the second or third weekend in December. The quarterfinals and semifinals will alternate in bowl games, and the championship game will be played at neutral venues, the same as the current four-team format.

The 12-team model originally consisted of SEC Commissioners Greg Sankey, Swarbrick, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson and former Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. It went public in June 2021, but was bogged down by conference politics. In February, the CFP announced that it would not extend contracts on existing contracts that expire after the 2025 season.

The main obstacle is specific opposition from the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12. But after USC and UCLA committed to the Big Ten this summer and that conference signed a historic TV deal, those league issues began to fade from view.

Two weeks ago, the CFP board held a surprise conference call to discuss expansion under the current contract structure and the possibility of a 12-team playoff start. That showed on Friday afternoon, a landmark day in the sport, on the cusp of the official start of the football season on Saturday.

“The Pac-12 strongly supports the expansion of the CFP and welcomes the decision of the CFP Board of Directors,” Pac-12 said in a statement Friday. “The expansion of the CFP will provide even more opportunity and excitement, which is the right thing to do for our student-athletes and fans. We look forward to working with our other conferences to finalize the important elements of the expanded CFP to launch as soon as possible.”

It could take weeks or months to determine the possibility of a 12-team playoff appearance in 2024 or 2025. While CFP officials have put hurdles in place for such a sudden move — venues, hotels and TV contracts — funding could be a powerful driver of looming change.

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